Flint, Mich. – The Firebirds are set to battle their in-state and division rival from Saginaw on the eve of Thanksgiving in America. Puck drop versus the Spirit is set for 7 p.m. (ET) Wednesday at the Dort Federal Credit Union Event Center.
The Firebirds enter Wednesday night’s tilt with a 1-0-0-0 record versus the Spirit this season. Wednesday night marks the second of eight regular-season meetings annually between these clubs, and the first of four in Flint. All-time, Flint is 11-20-0-2 against the Spirit and is 6-8-0-2 on home ice in the series. For the fifth consecutive season, the team who wins the most regular-season meetings between the two clubs will take home the coveted I-75 Divide Cup, sponsored by Coors Light. In each of the first two seasons, the Cup remained in Flint. The Spirit claimed the Cup the last two seasons, thus tying the Cup series at two wins each heading into this year.
Both clubs have played 23 games of the 68-game OHL regular season. The Firebirds have the second-most points in the conference with an overall record of 15-8-0-0 and are 10-3-0-0 on home ice. Saginaw enters Wednesday’s tilt in sixth-place with a record of 13-8-1-1 and a road record of 5-3-1-0. In their past ten contests, Saginaw is 5-4-0-1 and the ‘Birds are 5-5-0-0.
When these clubs met in Saginaw on September 21, the Firebirds scored four unanswered goals to spoil their in-state rivals’ opening night. There were 4,125 fans on had to watch Flint earn victory number one on the season. Flint’s Anthony Popovich made 34 saves on 35 shots, Jake Durham netted a hat-trick and Brennan Othmann recorded his first-career OHL goal.
The ‘Birds enter Wednesday’s contest winning their past two games, having swept last weekend’s series on home ice. On Friday, they defeated the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds 4 – 3. Then on Saturday, Flint skated to a 5 – 4 triumph over the Owen Sound Attack. Both Luke Cavallin and Anthony Popovich recorded victories between the pipes, and seven Firebirds’ players recorded multiple points between the two contests. Defenseman Riley McCourt led the scoring for Flint with three goals and an assist over the weekend, followed by Evgeniy Oksentyuk with one tally and three helpers.
Noteworthy is the return of Grand Blanc, Mich. native Dalton Duhart who will play his first-ever game in Flint as member of the rival-franchise, Saginaw Spirt. Originally drafted by the London Knights in the third round of the 2017 OHL Priority Selection, Duhart was most-recently acquired by Saginaw in a trade with the Barrie Colts. Dalton Duhart has played in 119 regular-season OHL games, picking up 15 goals and 19 assists. His father Jim Duhart played for the Flint Generals over multiple tenures between 1993 and 2005. He played 470 games with the Flint Generals, which is the most by any player. Duhart also played 27 games during part of one season with Flint’s in-state rival during the 1996-97 season, then called the Saginaw Lumber Kings.
On special teams, the Spirit rank 15th with the man-advantage, converting at a rate of 19.6%. The Firebirds are scoring at a 16.5% clip on the power play. When short-handed, Saginaw is killing penalties with an 81.4%% success-rate, which is tied third-best in the OHL. Flint’s overall penalty-kill success rate is 78.2%, which is tied for the league’s eighth-best efficiency. On home ice, the ‘Birds have the second-rated penalty kill at 89.2%. Flint has only allowed a power-play goal in one of their past nine games.
In partnership with the Foodbank of Eastern Michigan, fans can bring in five non-perishable food items to the Firebirds’ merchandise store, The Birds Nest, at the Dort Federal Event Center for a complimentary sponsored Silver Level ticket, courtesy of Little Caesars. Additionally, the Firebirds offer amazing deals for all of their weekday home games featuring $2 beers, hot dogs, popcorn and sodas! Everyone in attendance will receive a pair of thunderstix, compliments of Dort Federal Credit Union.
Single game tickets for all Firebirds games are $12 Bronze, $16 Silver, $20 Gold and $26 VIP seating (Seating Chart). All seats are reserved / assigned seating. Fans can purchase tickets by calling (810) 744-0580, in-person at the Dort Federal Event Center Box Office or online at ticketmaster.com here.
Players to Watch:
Flint Firebirds (15-8-0-0, 3rd Western Conference):
Evgeniy Oksentyuk continues to lead the Firebirds in goals-scored and total points. He has 12 goals and 18 assists for 30 total points through 23 games-played, and he’s on a five-game point-streak (4G, 7A). Behind Oksentyuk, there is a three-way tie for the second-most points on the club. Team captain Ty Dellandrea (Dallas Stars) has 11 goals and 13 helpers for 24 points in 21 games. Jake Durham also has 11 goals, and he has 13 assists for a total of 24 points in 23 games. He is currently fourth in total goals-scored by any Flint player at 64, which is only three behind former-Firebird Nick Caamano in third with 67. Durham rides an eight-game (3G, 8A) point streak into Wednesday’s game.
Also tied for third is defenseman Riley McCourt, who leads the defensive troops with nine goals and 15 assists for 24 points through 23 games. His 24 points are tied for the fifth-most of any defender in the OHL His nine goals are tied for second-most, and his 15 helpers have him tied for ninth in the same category. On Monday, McCourt was named the OHL ‘On the Run’ Player of the Week with eight points (3G, 5A) over three games.
Brennan Othmann leads all first-year players for the ‘Birds with 11 total points, which have him tied for the eighth-most points by any rookie in the league. His average of .73 points-per-game is the fourth-best among the league’s freshman class, and his five goals are tied for seventh.
Between the pipes, Anthony Popovich has the OHL’s 12th-best goals-against-average at 3.45 GAA and the seventh-best save-percentage at .901. Luke Cavallin carries a 3.60 GAA with the ninth-best save-percentage at .900 SAV%.
NHL: The Firebirds have four players with NHL ties consisting of Dennis Busby (Arizona Coyotes), Ty Dellandrea (Dallas Stars), Ethan Keppen (Vancouver Canucks), and Vladislav Kolyachonok (Florida Panthers). In addition, Evan Vierling was named to the 2020 NHL Central Scouting November ‘Players to Watch’ list.
Despite Flint being in the midst of just their fifth OHL season, three former Firebirds have already played in NHL games: Nick Caamano (Dallas Stars), Alex Nedeljkovic (Carolina Hurricanes) and Kole Sherwood (Columbus Blue Jackets). Ty Dellandrea (Dallas Stars), Ethan Keppen (Vancouver Canucks), Vili Saarijarvi (Detroit Red Wings) and Jalen Smereck (Arizona Coyotes) have played in NHL pre-season contests. In total, the team has produced an impressive 17 drafted or signed NHL players in that short time.
Saginaw Spirit (13-8-1-1, 6th Western Conference):
Cole Perfetti leads the Spirit in both assists (27) and total points (37). Perfetti is also the Spirit’s top returning scorer from a season ago. In the 2018-19 campaign, he registered 74 points (37G, 37A) in 63 games played. He is currently on a five-game point-streak (5G, 3A) and is considered a potential first-round pick for the upcoming NHL Draft in June.
Cole Coskey ranks second on the club with twelve goals and 17 helpers for 29 points through 23 games-played. He’s tied for the most insurance goals in the league with four. Damien Giroux and defenseman Ilya Solovyov are tied for third with 24 points each. Giroux leads the Spirit in goals with 14, compared with Solovyov who leads the club in assists with 22.
First-year forward Ethan Cardwell tops the freshman class for Saginaw with six goals and four assists through 23 games-played. His ten points are tied for ninth-most among all rookies in the league, and his sixth goals are sixth-most.
In net, Tristan Lennox has appeared in 15 games and posted a 3.54 goals-against average (GAA) and a .877 save-percentage (SAV%) along with eight victories. Marshall Frappier has appeared in eight games this season, logging five victories and earning a 2.84 GAA with a .892 SAV%.
NHL: The Spirit have four players with NHL ties on their roster, consisting of Cole Coskey (New York Islanders), Damien Giroux (Minnesota Wild), Blade Jenkins (New York Islanders), Mason Millman (Philadelphia Flyers). Additionally, Cole Perfetti and Ilya Solovyov were named to the 2020 NHL Central Scouting November ‘Players to Watch’ list.
12 notable Spirit alumni to play in the NHL are Cody Bass, Paul Bissonnette, T.J. Brodie, Matt Corrente, Filip Hronek, Jan Mursak, Jamie Oleksiak, Dalton Prout, Tom Pyatt, Brandon Saad, Chris Thorburn and Vincent Trocheck.
Wednesday evening’s contest against the Saginaw Spirit can be heard live on the radio throughout Flint & Mid-Michigan on US 103.1 FM, online at www.us103.com or by downloading the US 103 app here. Firebirds’ broadcaster Dominic Hennig will call the play-by-play action on the Firebirds Hockey Network (FHN). Pregame coverage will begin 30 minutes prior to puck drop at 6:30 p.m. New this season, fans can watch the FHN TV Pregame Show live on Facebook and Twitter, also beginning at 6:30 p.m.
The game will also be televised live across the province of Ontario on the OHL Action Pak on channel 466 for both Rogers TV and Cogeco TV cable subscribers. OHL fans with cable television in Ontario can add the OHL Action Pak to their television plan to catch the Firebirds in action, home or away all season long. Along with Wednesday’s game, 65 of the Firebirds’ 68 games throughout the 2019-20 season are also scheduled to be televised live across the province of Ontario on the OHL Action Pak.
Through Saginaw’s partnership, the game will also be televised on a tape-delayed basis throughout Mid-Michigan on Sunday, December 1st at 6 p.m. (ET) on WNEM-TV5 Plus. The channel can be found on 5.2 via antennae over the air, channel 199 for Charter Cable subscribers and channel 4 for Comcast/Xfinity cable subscribers.
All Flint Firebirds home and away games throughout the 2019-20 season can be watched anywhere in the world online on www.ohllive.com or on the OHL Live app. OHL Live is a league video streaming platform that delivers high quality live and on-demand coverage of all regular season and playoff games annually. The cost is $6.99 per game, $69.99 for Flint Firebirds away games only, $149.99 for all 68 home and away Firebirds games and $179.99 for all 1,360 OHL games throughout the 2019-20 season.
For more information:
Director of Broadcasting & Communications
Flint Firebirds Hockey Club